Navy broke open a close game early in the second half with a 26-5 run, then connected on its final 12 free throws to seal a 62-40 victory over American in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League women's tournament yesterday in Worcester, Mass.
It was Navy's first postseason victory since the 1999 tournament.
_____Patriot League Men_____
Where: Quarterfinals and semifinals, Worcester, Mass., and Lewisburg, Pa. Final at higher seed.
Favorite: Holy Cross. The Crusaders have the best player in the conference in junior guard Kevin Hamilton and tied a record for most conference victories this season. Despite the strong record and solid RPI, Holy Cross will need to win the conference tournament to receive an NCAA bid. One key for Holy Cross will be the play of freshman point guard Pat Doherty, who was named the Patriot League rookie of the year.
Dark Horse: Bucknell. The Bison were the only team to beat Holy Cross in conference play, have wins over Pittsburgh and Saint Joseph's and put together an 11-game winning streak this season. The Bison have three players averaging in double figures in scoring, including Kevin Bettencourt, Charles Lee and Chris McNaughton.
Local Angle: American beat second seed Bucknell this season and came within a free throw of beating top seed Holy Cross in regulation before succumbing in overtime. The Eagles have advanced to three straight Patriot League championship games and have a pair of all-conference players in Andre Ingram and Jason Thomas. Ingram led the Patriot League in scoring at 15.7 points per game. After a dismal start to the season, Navy won five of its final nine games in part because of the implementation of an effective zone defense.
Quarterfinals, today: At Hart Center, Worcester, Mass. -- Lehigh (13-14) vs. Colgate (12-15), 5:30, and Army (3-23) vs. Holy Cross (22-5), 8; at Sojka Pavilion, Lewisburg, Pa. -- American (15-11) vs. Navy (9-18), 5:30, and Lafayette (19-9) vs. Bucknell (9-18), 8.
Semifinals, Sunday: Holy Cross-Army winner vs. Lehigh-Colgate winner, 1, Worcester, Mass.; Bucknell-Lafayette winner vs. American-Navy winner, 1, Lewisburg, Pa.
Final, March 11: Semifinal winners, 4:30.
-- Ivan Carter
Navy (11-17) will face top-seeded Holy Cross in tomorrow's semifinals.
"At the start of the season, we as a team set a goal for ourselves to make a name for ourselves and do something that not a lot of people thought we could do," Navy captain Abi Campbell said. "A win in the first round is a great way to start."
Navy, the No. 5 seed, defeated fourth-seeded American for the second time in five days and became the first team to defeat the Eagles three times in a season since AU joined the Patriot League four years ago.
"This game was another example of what I have been saying all year," Navy Coach Tom Marryott said. "We have great senior leadership on this team. They, and the entire team, have a lot of pride and they really wanted to accomplish something this year."
The Eagles jumped to a 17-9 lead, but the Midshipmen closed the first half by outscoring American 13-2 and went into halftime holding a 22-19 lead.
Joanna Barnes scored on American's first possession of the second half to cut the Navy lead to one, but Ashley Pelzek's three-pointer started Navy on its decisive run.
Nikki Curtis sparked Navy with 11 points during its spurt and Campbell drilled a pair of three-pointers and added an additional field goal.
While Curtis and Campbell sparked the Mids offensively, the Navy defense did its part by forcing American into 2-of-9 shooting and seven turnovers. By the time the Eagles made their first field goal in nearly seven minutes, Navy held a 48-28 advantage.
The Eagles got within 50-38 with 4:05 to go, but Navy put the game away at the free throw line.
Lauren Skrel led Navy with 14 points and 11 assists, a Navy postseason record. She also made 10 of 10 free throws.
Chanel Hunt had 17 points and seven rebounds for the Eagles (12-16), who made just 16 of 63 field goals, including 1 of 14 three-pointers.
GEORGE MASON 46, HOFSTRA 44: Keyhana Wakefield scored the go-ahead basket with 33 seconds left as the host Patriots (12-15, 8-10) clinched the No. 6 seed in next week's Colonial Athletic Association tournament.